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Online advertising can be an excellent tactic for systematically growing your business.

Due to the ability to target exact audiences and measure clicks and conversions, you can acquire a steady stream of brand new prospects – if done well. If done sloppily or with the wrong vendor, you can quickly burn through $1,000’s or $10,000’s in no time!

Another extremely valuable use of online ads is the ability to test different offers, messages and target groups. 

You can quickly see if there is real interest in a new product feature, new service or new website design before spending all the money to completely build it out.

With the right PPC vendor, you can extract all these learnings and really ramp up your growth.  With the wrong PPC vendor, you will be blind to the data and insights.

The key is in taking the time to define your specific goals and expectations, and to screen a variety of candidates.

Speaking from personal experience, the PPC world is definitely full of the good, the bad and the ugly.  Here is my process for more quickly partnering with the good:

1) Know these answers in advance:

  • What are your goals for the project and how do you measure success?
    • Research (testing offers, research questions)
    • Awareness (Unique site visitors, Facebook reach)
    • Engagement (Facebook Likes, Sign ups for your mailing list)
    • Conversion (direct online sales, call to customer service, online chat with customer service)
  • Who is your target customer?
  • What is your target Cost per Acquisition (CPA)?  Typically you first calculate your lifetime customer value or LTV (Click here for more details).  In order to be profitable you will want to spend less than this amount for each new customer.
  • What is your monthly advertising budget?

2) Collect candidates.

  • Referrals from other small business owners in your networking groups.
  • Referral lists such as these PPC Management and TopSEOs.

3) Set up interviews with a list of 3-6 recommended vendors and ask the following:

  • Does the firm specialize in PPC advertising?
  • How many clients does each account manager manage?
  • What tasks will they do and which do they expect you to do:
    • Ad creative
    • Ad copy
    • Keyword research
    • Landing page specifications
    • Landing page creation
    • Tracking and analytics
  • What is the typical setup time? (Usually 2 weeks)
  • How long before they reach your target CPA? (usually 1-2 months; beware if they claim 1-2 weeks)
  • Pricing: What are their fees?  Is it a % of ad spend?  Is there a minimum? Do they consider pay for performance billing? When is it billed?
  • Will you have access to your own data? (beware if they want to have your campaign within their own accounts.)
  • What type of reporting do they provide?  Can they send an example report?
  • What is the length of contract?  How much notice do you need to give to cancel the contract? Can they send an example contract for your review? (Warning: do not get locked into any contract with greater than 30-60 day cancellation clause.)
  • What is the communications process?
  • What platforms do they work in (Google, Bing, Facebook, etc.)?  What do they advise given your goals?
  • What makes them different from all the other firms out there?
  • Have they worked on any accounts in your industry?  What were the results?
  • Competition?  Will they use tools to look at your competition’s ad spend and tactics to advice on best approach?

4) Audit – most of the more reputable vendors will want to review your current PPC campaign. Their feedback and reporting is a good indication of their level of expertise and their method for working together.

5) Check out referrals – Once you have narrowed the list, call a few of their clients and ask them about the experience and results.

Any advice to add? Please share in the comments section below.